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Heat Face Wizards With Top Seed Still in Reach

If one word can sum up Miami’s season thus far, it would probably be “inconsistent.”

Wins against elite teams as well as losses to cellar-dwellers. Spectacular team play mixed with selfish, iso-heavy basketball. Injuries, two dozen different starting lineups…Dwyane Wade in-and-out of games.

Inconsistencies all around.

On Friday, the Heat whupped the Indiana Pacers at home, securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference, dominating a rival team and delivering a resounding win, all without Wade, still one of the great guards in the NBA. The next day, they coughed it all up – with Wade in the lineup – in a sloppy turnover-prone game against a weak Atlanta team that was struggling to hang on to the final seed in the East playoff race.

Conversely, Indiana outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, reclaiming the top spot in the East. With only one game left (on Wednesday, against the 23-win Orlando Magic), the Pacers seem likely to stay atop the East throne.

Meanwhile, Miami still has two games left – on Monday against Washington and a Wednesday game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Wade’s return (24 points on 7-of-10 shooting) was promising. But as the regular season winds down, Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra must decide if key players will get needed rest for the postseason just a week away.

There’s still a chance for Miami, at least mathematically, to regain the 1-seed. The Heat must win both of their remaining games, and the Pacers have to lose in Orlando.

And a victory over the Wizards (42-38) is not a foregone conclusion; they’re competing for playoff positioning as well. Currently clinging to the sixth-seed in the East, they’re just one game over Charlotte. If the standings remain the same, Washington would face Toronto in the playoffs. If they drop, they face either Miami or Indiana, considered a much-stronger opponent than the Raptors.

Miami leads the season series (2 games to 1) but the Wizards can challenge the Heat, particularly if Spoelstra decides to rest LeBron James or Chris Bosh. Washington is led by All-Star John Wall (at nearly 20 PPG) and Bradley Beal is a dangerous outside threat. Big-man tandem Marcin Gortat and Nenê (bothered by knee injury but expected back in the lineup) give the Wizards a definite rebounding edge.

Regardless of who’s on the floor for Miami, their best effort will be necessary to pull out a victory. If this season of inconsistency remains true to form, expect an unexpected victory in Washington before losing to the woeful 76ers for the second time this season.

Watch the telecast of the game beginning at 7 P.M. on Sun Sports from the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. Check back with AllUCanHeat for a regular updates and for a full recap after the game.

UPDATE: Official lineups will not be announced by Coach Spoelstra until right before game time. But according to numerous sources, several players may be held out of tonight’s game as seen in reports like this one from the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman (via Twitter):

 

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Tags: Chris Bosh Dwyane Wade Lebron James

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